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Articles from October, 2005

Judge Alito: a fight brewing?

Big news today is President Bush’s nomination of Judge Samuel Alito of the U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals to serve on the Supreme Court. AP write-up on, here. New York Times, here and MSNBC here. Lots of NPR coverage here.

Unlike John Roberts or Harriet Miers, Judge Alito has a long judicial record, one that will provide lots of grist for the confirmation mill. Here are a few NSBA summaries of Alito opinions in school law cases: this one striking down a district’s policy against harassing speech; this one striking down a district’s decision not to distribute materials from religious groups to students; and this one finding that a district court failed to accord “due weight” to a special ed hearing officer’s decision that a district should have approved the transfer of a student who had been badly bullied to another school district.

Alito has taken a strong interest in cases involving free speech and religion, and his rulings will be of comfort to social conservatives who had misgivings about Miers. Look for discussion of his decisions in employment cases, too. These will be of interest to public school boards and administrators, who (for now at least) collectively employ and manage more Americans than even Walmart.

Erin Walsh|October 31st, 2005|Categories: Governance, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|

Public in Michigan wants school boards trained

A new survey by the Michigan Association of School Boards points to a public who believes school board member training should be mandatory, and further, who is more likely to vote for a candidate if he or she receives training. A sizable 80 percent believes that training is necessary once board members are elected so they can fulfill their responsibilities under the law.

Many new school board members start their service with the best intentions but soon find out that educational issues are extremely complex. But not all states recognize the need for mandatory training. A review last year by NSBA found that only 18 states required training for local board members.

“Without effective training, it is difficult for boards to focus on student achievement issues, let alone adopting a balanced budget, hiring a superintendent, approving policies, and keeping up with the ever-changing legislation and school law,” said Kathy Hayes, MASB’s co-director of leadership development.

Erin Walsh|October 31st, 2005|Categories: Governance, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|

Why so few male teachers?

School Board News reports that the number of male teachers in public schools is at its lowest level in 40 years: “Less than a quarter of all teachers in U.S. public schools are men. When you get down to the elementary grades, it’s harder to find a man in the classroom—just 9 percent of elementary school teachers are men.”

School Board News also delivers a good overview of recent NAEP numbers here.

Erin Walsh|October 28th, 2005|Categories: Governance, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|

Rosy Web picture painted by Shlain

Tiffany Shlain, founder of the Webby Awards and Internet expert for ABC’s Good Morning America, predicted the digital divide will be closed in our lifetime as prices for personal computing devices continue to drop. While sounding a bit Pollyannish, Shlain did lay out nicely how the Web has profoundly impacted our lives in yesterday’s T+L² Conference keynote here in Denver. She reported that 500 million people are now online, which has created specialized networks that allow people to connect as a community based on their shared, unique interests. She marveled at how one-third of today’s Web content is contributed by people who want to share their ideas and thoughts with others citing Wikipedia, and book and music reviews on as prime examples. Other award-winning Web sites that emphasize social networking, said Shlain, include, where non-profits can hone their advocacy efforts;, where teens and young adults create their own electronic space; and, where dog lovers share photos and stories about their four-legged friends. Hey, whatever.

Erin Walsh|October 28th, 2005|Categories: Educational Technology, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|

Technology survey reveals more gains for students, more teacher prep needed

NSBA Executive Director Anne Bryant released new survey results today at the T+L² Conference here in Denver showing that respondents believe students are more engaged in learning, have increased critical thinking skills, and a stronger ability to communicate as a result of technology. NSBA conducted an e-mail survey the week of October 17 of approximately 1,500 registrants of the T+L Conference, which included technology specialists, teachers, administrators, and school board members. More than 400 registrants replied to the survey.

Another compelling finding is that 85 percent of respondents said that their new teachers were only somewhat prepared or not prepared in effectively integrating technology into the classroom. “This is a wake-up call to schools of education around our country,” said Bryant in a special news briefing.

And while approximately 78 percent of respondents said that home access to the Internet was a problem for their low-income students, only 10 percent said that closing the digital divide was a challenge for their districts. Many reported that students, when not at school, access the Internet at community centers.

Erin Walsh|October 27th, 2005|Categories: Educational Technology, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|

Opposing low-cost wireless access

According to a recent study, the United States has dropped to 16th in the percentage of citizens with access to broadband, trailing South Korea, Canada, Israel, and Japan, among others. reports that there is consensus across the political spectrum that we need to go wireless—and fast: “The disagreement is about who will cover the country with hot spots: big government or big business,” Slate asks. San Francisco, Philadelphia, Chicago, Miami Beach, Milwaukee, and Portland, Ore., are exploring “muni wireless,” an option that certainly would benefit schools. But the option has its powerful opponents, in the corporate world and in Congress. The piece is a great overview of the issue.

Erin Walsh|October 27th, 2005|Categories: Governance, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|

Rosa Parks

America’s editorial cartoonists have been drawing panels honoring Rosa Parks. We like this one. Enjoy.

Erin Walsh|October 27th, 2005|Categories: Governance, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|

High school students push beyond traditional journalism

Convergence media, a fancy term for the natural evolution of traditional journalism, was featured at one of this morning’s sessions here at NSBA’s T+L² Conference in Denver. Basically, it’s an emerging movement in journalism to bring together broadcast, print, and online news productions through technology. High school students at Richland Northeast in Richland School District Two, Columbia, S.C., work as a team to gather news and then archive it in a multi-media production facility. Then, students decide how to distribute the news through numerous ways, such as the school’s tv programming, Web site, blog, and school newspaper. Students learn how to write for print, broadcast, and the web; how to use digital and video cameras; and how to do video editing, web page design and layout. Check out the students’ work at the Convergence Web site. By the way, Richland School District Two is one of this year’s TLN Salute District winners.

Erin Walsh|October 26th, 2005|Categories: Educational Technology, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|

Tune in for today’s online discussion

Virtual learning is one of the hottest education technology topics today. Thirty-six percent of the nation’s school districts now offer distance education courses, according to the Department of Education. And of those, 47 percent reported using the Internet to deliver these courses.

Jump into a fascinating online discussion about the pros and cons of virtual learning today beginning at 11:30 a.m. ET hosted from NSBA’s T+L Conference. Or post your question in advance here.

Erin Walsh|October 26th, 2005|Categories: Governance, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|

This principal has found the key: Data!

The National High School Principal of the year, Mel Riddile at J.E.B. Stuart High School in Fairfax County, Virginia, is more than a swell guy. “What other educators say they have noticed about Riddile is his unerring, and sometimes astonishing, focus on student achievement,” reports the Washington Post. “The experts say he has turned Stuart into one of the highest-performing and best-functioning high schools in the country, the academic results particularly impressive because 54 percent of Stuart students come from low-income homes.”

And: “Kathleen McBride, president of Stuart’s Parent Teacher Student Association, said Riddile collected reams of data on each problem he faced and then encouraged different and sometimes daring solutions from a staff that came to realize he was going to listen to them and back up their efforts.”

From, here is a profile of Riddile’s school, illustrating all that it has accomplished academically. And what is it with Virginia principals? The Middle School Principal of the Year, Sharon Byrdsong, is from Norfolk.

Erin Walsh|October 26th, 2005|Categories: Governance, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|
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